A lovestruck businessman who gave nearly £200,000 to a Tinder date is fighting in court to get his money back almost five years later.
‘Naive’ London-based oil industry consultant Marcel Kooter, 61, said he was ‘blinded by attraction’ when he agreed to transfer the money to Manuela Radeva, 41, after meeting her online in February 2017.
Mr Kooter had a nine-month whirlwind relationship with the Bulgarian, who claimed to be an investment manager and moved into his apartment in Woolwich with him soon after they met.
However, he later discovered she was not a professional financier, nor was she single – having married another man a few weeks earlier.
Mr Kooter sued her in December 2017 in a bid to get his money back.
He won his case, but is still fighting to get the £206,000 she now owes him after she filed for bankruptcy in the UK within a month of the February 2019 ruling.
However, last week his five-year battle received a boost when a judge in London annulled Ms Radeva’s bankruptcy, paving the way for him to pursue her for his cash.
‘Naive’ oil industry consultant Marcel Kooter (left), 61, agreed to transfer £200,000 to Bulgarian woman Manuela Radeva (right), 41, after meeting her online in February 2017
Mr Kooter discovered Ms Radeva had married another man just weeks before he began his relationship with her
Judge Raquel Agnello KC said Ms Radeva’s successful bankruptcy application had been based on a string of false statements and a faked university certificate designed to create an ‘illusion’ that she was UK-based and so eligible for bankruptcy here.
During the case the High Court heard the couple enjoyed a ‘lavish lifestyle’ together, despite their short association, enjoying skiing holidays and stays in expensive hotels.
Mr Kooter splashed thousands on gifts, including designer luggage and a Chanel handbag and purse for his new lover, the court heard, as well as paying out for their ‘hotel and bar expenses’.
After they split up, he demanded back £182,000 which he said he gave her in the belief she was a professional who would invest it for him.
But Michael Collard, for Ms Radeva, claimed the payments were part-and-parcel of their lavish ‘domestic expenses as a couple’ and that Ms Radeva should not be made to reimburse him.
‘This was a man on a very high income in what was clearly a serious relationship,’ he said. ‘They were living together. This was a relationship with lots of kisses. It was not a professional relationship between the two of them.’
In her evidence, Ms Radeva had claimed before the judge that she had never said she was an investment manager and that trading was merely her ‘hobby in the evening’.
The oil consultant was said to be ‘blinded by attraction’ when he met Ms Radeva, spending lavish amounts of money during their time together
Manuela Radeva poses in front of a Ferrari. She declared bankruptcy after she was ordered to pay Mr Kooter the money back
But ruling in 2019 Judge John Cavanagh said a screenshot of her Tinder profile from 2017 ‘stated on that profile that she was employed by Citibank.’
She had also signed off emails ‘Manuela Radeva, Capital Investment Manager’, he said, ordering that she pay Mr Kooter £182,050, plus £3,641 interest, and his £20,000 legal costs.
However, just over three weeks later, Ms Radeva applied to be made bankrupt – with Mr Kooter her only substantial creditor – and the order was made in July of that year.
She claimed she lived in Epsom, Surrey, had been educated and worked in the UK and that it was where she had her social life and conducted her business.
But the judge said significant doubt had been cast on her claims, including that she had completed a master’s degree at Birkbeck UCL – a university that does not even exist.
‘It is difficult to imagine that a person who attended either of these well-known higher education institutions and obtained an MBA there, would make such an error,’ said the judge.
A purported certificate showing her attendance on a course had misspelled the name of the genuine university Birkbeck and contained other typographical errors, she continued.
She had also claimed to have worked marketing jobs in the UK, including at Picturehouse Cinemas, but provided no details of the job or any evidence of receiving a salary or paying tax.
Ms Radeva’s bankruptcy has now been annulled after a judge decided she was based in Bulgaria and not the UK
‘It is Mr Kooter’s case that essentially, Ms Radeva is seeking to create an illusion of permanent presence in the UK,’ she continued.
‘Having considered the evidence before me, in my judgment, Ms Radeva’s habitual residence remained in Bulgaria.
‘The evidence does not support a genuine change of habitual residence. The evidence demonstrates an attempt by her to create an illusion of habitual residence in England and Wales.
‘Her evidence fails to deal with the close and strong ties she has in Bulgaria.
‘She has presented to this court a certificate which I have held is not genuine. She places reliance upon her various marketing and other courses, but fails to provide any evidence as to how she funds her studies or her lifestyle in England and Wales.
‘As I have held on the evidence, she did not exercise any economic activity in England and Wales at the relevant time.
‘Accordingly, I am satisfied that at the time that Ms Radeva sought to apply for a bankruptcy order, the court had no jurisdiction to make such an order by reason of her centre of main interest being in Bulgaria.’
Ms Radeva’s bankruptcy has now been annulled.
The case will now return to court for another hearing at a later date to decide the consequences of the judges order.